The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

By Roman Mars, Kurt Kohlstedt

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been listening to the 99 Percent Invisible podcast for quite some time now and it’s one of my favourites. I was excited when I heard about the book and made sure I pre-ordered it. There’s a lot to enjoy in the book, but much of it is adapted from stories that the podcast has run over the years (at over 400 episodes at the time of writing, that’s a lot to choose from), but as someone who has listened to all of them, it’s a little disappointing that there wasn’t more original work in the book. The stories themselves are well-chosen for the most part, although some could do with a bit more depth than the page or two that they get. They’re grouped first into chapters with very wide scope and then into sub-chapters that collects related topics, whether that is signage, synanthropes (animals that have adapted to live alongside humans in cities), or safety.

The one big thing that’s missing from the book are photographs of what it describes. There are some neat line illustrations by Patrick Vale that give you an idea, but sometimes they’re not clear enough to properly illustrate the subject under discussion. I can see that using the illustrations gives the book a unifying feel, and that getting appropriate photographs might have been more difficult, but it is something that I think would have really helped a book that is, fundamentally, about architecture and design.

The stories are all very much 99PI though so are all interesting to read, even if I recognised them from before. And I couldn’t help but read the whole thing in Roman Mars’ delicious voice.

Book details

ISBN: 9781529355277
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

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